I rant you risten

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ptown, Massachusetts

A fishing village comprising of Portuguese immigrants, a rest stop for Pirates, a famous art colony with it’s picturesque landscapes, and today’s Gay summer capital of America. Located at the tip of Cape Code in Massachusetts, Provincetown retains its place as a major part of American history – from every single aspect…

You’re probably wondering why the hell is he writing about a gay town? Well let me tell you, I have a close relationship with this gay town starting off with a trip down with my family many years ago and continuing almost every summer till I left to come back here… Vacationing one summer with my family, we ended up on Massachusetts’ summer getaway: Cape Cod… This is just a beautiful cape that extends into the Atlantic Ocean, filled with beach towns, summer life, ice cream parlors, just like it is in the movies… You’ve got little cottages spread out, the Kennedy’s and their summer compound in Hyannis, antiquing expeditions that could go on for days, mouthwatering seafood, sand dunes, beaches, and that coastal region feel to the place. The Cape has its year round inhabitants, but the summer months is when the seasonal dwellers come, businesses thrive off tourists, and life is busy… Anyways, back to my story: Bahraini family on Cape Cod, sticking out like a sore thumb, mom’s busy visiting antique stores, buying woman’s suffrage plates and memorabilia (you rock mami)… My dad’s checking out artwork, antiques and pocket watches to add to his collection. And there we were: 4 kids ranging from grade school to college student, just enjoying being on holiday… Asking around, some tourist center tells us we need to check out Provincetown, so we pile up into our rented van (I told you we stuck out like a sore thumb) and off we go… driving up to Ptown, you can actually see the coastline and get a feel of the “map view” of the place, sand dunes and little cottages adorning the coastline. Driving up to a public parking lot, we encounter two men holding hands and strolling by.. My mother, being the slightly traditional person she is, and for being a Bahraini woman never to have visited gaytown USA, wonders why they’re holding hands (Mind you, this is all happening sometime in the very early 90s – very early, when homosexuality wasn’t as publicly tolerated as it is now)… My brother then reassures her that “this is America, it’s not Bahrain – you will see men acting affectionate towards each other, it’s normal”… We park the car, and start making our way to the town center… Along the walk, we encountered more men holding hands, women holding hands, groups of people together, men wearing sarongs coming from the beach, kisses being exchanged… We apprehensively made our way to the town center, cursing the tourist center guide that recommended Ptown to us...

The cozy feel of Commercial street is unrivalled, small narrow streets with shops of all kinds with people walking in and out of trendy designer shops, galleries, fetish-o-ramas, bakeries, everything… We soon find out that not only are we sticking out like sore thumbs, we’re a minority in a minority’s safe haven.. Arab family in a Gay town? The next 30 minutes of lost wanderings were filled with moments of “What the hell are we doing here? Why are those two men kissing? SO MANY GAY PEOPLE! Is that a man or a woman in the evening gown?” After our initial freak out and with a little help from the tourist guidebook, we soon discover we have entered Provincetown, where Gaydom reigns… Not to have wasted an hour in driving up here, my parents decide to tromp along the streets of Ptown and see what all this fuss is about… It wasn’t long before the ‘rents discovered a bunch of starving artists and the wonderful world of extremely beautiful and very affordable artwork… Galleries galore, street performers, weird shops, restaurants, we ended up having the best time a straight family could possibly have… Heading back to our rented holiday abode, my parents made a pledge that they will visit Ptown every year to purchase their paintings, dine at the most delicious restaurants, and be around the insanity and the fun…

Soon after that, every summer we made our way to Boston, my parents would rent a car just to drive 3 hours each way to Provincetown to enjoy their little gay gem in the western hemisphere… We went on whale watches, learned about the pirates, my mother would buy bags and bags of saltwater taffy, walks on the beaches, taking in the quaintness of it all, strolls on their narrow streets, taking pictures of the beautiful cottages, visiting the different monuments… everything… I’m not saying we didn’t see some weird shit, because every single member of my family can tell you of something totally weird they saw in that little town – but it was all about the experience, not about infringing on someone’s personal space or freedom… We all built a lasting relationship with that town, and it really helped us with accepting people for who they are… My parents were so in love with Ptown, that they actually started inviting their friends from Bahrain who were visiting in the area… (Having had a couple of their kids study in Massachusetts, my parents have become seasoned New Englanders, they know where to take you for this and that, shopping, sight seeing, good Vermont Cheddar, everything)… The mistake they made is sometimes insisting on bringing their friends (and sometimes, less open minded friends) with them to Ptown… I don’t have to tell you that it wasn’t that enjoyable…

We weren’t the only people to fall in love with Ptown… Apart from the fact that some of the greatest artists in the 20th century used to hang out there, Khalil Gibran used to party there during the 50s, Al Jafee (a cartoonist from mad magazine) lived there, and so many more that I can’t seem to recollect right now… The year round residents may have totaled a couple of thousand, but during the summer, that town had over 50 thousand residents. This was the Gay capital of the East coast: you had some of the most successful and talented people living in this one little town in the summer… Artists, musicians, chefs, Thespians (got ya), so many people living there every summer… Think about it, the best clothes you wear, the most interesting food you eat, the artwork you admire: the people that made that possible for you to experience have their own little getaway… Now imagine visiting that cultural center. Now imagine that cultural center is a beach town…

The other side to Ptown that I didn’t know if I liked or not was the looks you sometimes got from the gay community… It was like, “Hey you straight asshole, you’ve got the entire world to go stomping around, can’t we have our own space?” My reply to that was, “Fuck you Nancy, I’ve had a relationship with this town too. I’ve seen stores open and shut down over the years, I’ve swam in these waters, I’ve taken pictures and enjoyed these streets, I’ve done your afternoon tea parties that go on till dawn… we’ve made friends with residents only to find out they’ve died of AIDS the following year when we’ve come to visit. You sit here and don’t want discrimination, but now that the tables are turned you have to discriminate?” Sometimes I don’t blame some of them for feeling that way, but that’s not going to stop me from enjoying that place...

For those of you comfortable with your sexuality and are not fazed out by people doing whatever they want to do, I highly recommend Ptown… it’s a wonderful little summer town, with a great vibe rivaling some of the best cities on this planet…

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

ur a closet homo dude

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article. Thank you so much for writing it.

Bahraini Rants said...

Perfectly comfortable with my sexuality mate, do you or your boyfriend have anything you want to come out and say?

Mimaa said...

Your style of writing takes my breath away every single time!! :)

The visuals u paint here are marvelous... Ptown sounds like heaven right now compared to the filth and polution i have to live with in London! :(

I have to thank you for a lot of things... ur funny, entertaining, genuine, realistic without being pessimistic... welcoming...

;P having a great ego trip yet? :P

the more i read ur blog, the more i think... ok... el denya ebkhair... dam fi nass 3indihum 3aqil methla...we're ok... we just need more...!

have a great day :)

bananazone said...

i say more power to your family for being able to get over the initial shock of winding up in a gay town, and actually having a good time there instead of doing what my family would do, and freak out and run. lol im moving to san francisco, gay capital USA,i'm a straight, single, 20 year old female, and my parents are excited because they think, because of the steriotypes that there are no straight men there lol so to them they feel it'll keep me out of trouble... it's kind of funny :)

Bonsaimark said...

BR

You know you are more than welcome to come over and I will drive you down to P-town myself. After a Red Sox game of course!